Izumo, Iwami Ginzan & Gonokawa River Trail
Immerse yourself in the mythological Heartland of Japan.
- Trip Outline
History, mystery and more than a sprinkling of mythology... the wonders of Shimane Prefecture are just waiting to be discovered.
Known as Japan’s birth place and the ‘province of the Gods’, Shimane consists of three main areas: Iwami, Izumo and the Oki Islands. The city of Izumo, located along the Sea of Japan’s rural San’in coastline, is home to one of the oldest and most important Shinto shrines in the country; the Izumo Taisha Shrine has been the focus of legends and mystery for over a thousand years and a sacred air hangs over its ancient grounds.
Located in the mountains surrounding Oda City lies the historic silver mine of Iwami Ginzan. Iwami Ginzan, along with several other historical buildings, shrines and ruins, have been actively preserved by locals as part of a community revitalisation movement. As a result, the area was granted ‘World Heritage’ status in 2007, and makes for the ideal destination to truly explore and experience Japan’s authentic history.
From history that you can touch and taste to the strong and charming community spirit that can be witnessed across the prefecture, the real Shimane is even more interesting than the folktales and legends that it has inspired. Join us on a truly unforgettable adventure to a special destination that you’ll never want to leave!
- Visit Izumo Taisha, one of Japan’s oldest and most sacred shrines
- Learn about the famous ‘Welcoming of the Gods’ ceremony during a visit to the Bentenjima Shrine
- Watch a traditional performance of Kagura, a ceremonial worship dance dating back over 1000 years
- Walk along the Gotsuhonmachi Highway, exploring historic, preserved landmarks and buildings as you go
- Kayak along the Gonokawa River and view the area’s beautiful scenery from a new, fun perspective
- Practice zen meditation and calligraphy at Choko-ji Temple
- Enjoy interacting with children at a local kid’s club, exchanging culture and language through games and fun
Your journey to the heart of mythological Japan begins at Hiroshima Station’s Shinkansen Entrance, where the group will meet for introductions and a quick briefing. Afterwards, you’ll board a highway bus to Izumo for the first activity of the day - a visit to the sacred and ancient Izumo Taisha Shrine.
After some exploring and learning, the next stop is a local restaurant for lunch. Take the time to get to know the rest of your group before walking together to Inasanohama Beach - home to the Bentenjima Shrine and the location of the famous ‘Welcoming of the Gods’ ceremony, which you will have an opportunity to learn more about at the time.
Boarding a private bus to Yunotsu in the afternoon, you will be able to check in to your accommodation for the night, where a delicious dinner will be served. What’s more, you’ll also have the opportunity to spend some time soaking in a special Onsen hot spring - the perfect way to relax and unwind after a busy, exciting day.
After breakfast, the group will travel by private bus to Iwami Ginzan for a morning of exploration. Visit the Samurai’s Magistrate Office, the Gohyakurakan Statues, the Iwami Ginzan Silver Mine and more as you make your way around the historic, preserved area, finishing with a stop at a local restaurant for lunch.
After lunch, the next stop is Yakimono Kan, which will be reached via private bus. At Yakimono Kan, you’ll have the chance to get hands-on in a truly immersive experience as you take part in a special pottery workshop and learn more about the area’s historical links to the craft.
Dinner will be served at your accommodation this evening, but the day isn’t over quite yet. Make your way to the nearby Tatsunogozen Shrine, where you’ll have the special chance to watch a traditional performance of Kagura, a form of dance-based ritual worship that has been held at Shinto shrines for over 1000 years (Saturdays only).
After a late night, a relaxed and easy morning sounds like the perfect idea. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast, spend some time with new friends from your group or simply just make the most of the accommodation’s facilities before boarding a private bus to Gotsu at 11am.
Arriving at Gotsu, the group will stop for lunch at a local restaurant before the day’s first main activity - a hike along Gotsuhonmachi Highway - begins. As you walk, you’ll come across various historical sites and landmarks, such as the former San’in Road cobblestones, the Chikamoto Taishiyodo Dorayaki bakery (where you’ll have the chance to enjoy some freshly-made dorayaki red bean pancakes), the former town Post Office, and some preserved residences with exhibits and displays related to the area’s rich and important history. The walk will take around two hours, after which it will be time to board the private bus once more and head to your next destination.
The final main activity of the day will be another fun craft-making exercise. This time, you’ll be making traditional Japanese ‘washi’ paper, which can then be used for art, origami, or simply as a decoration.
After checking in to your accommodation in the evening, dinner will be served on-site, followed by plenty of time to relax and make the most of the facilities.
Boarding a private bus after breakfast, you’ll start your day by travelling to the Ginzan Kaido Highway (the ancient road leading to Iwami Ginzan, which you visited earlier) for a guided walk that will take you through a bamboo forest with beautiful views of Mt Sanbin. The walk will take about two hours, and will finish with lunch at a local restaurant.
After lunch, it’s time to get right back outside and hop into a kayak for a trip along the Gonokawa River. Whether you’ve been kayaking for years or you’ve barely ever dipped your toes in water, kayaking is a fun and easy-to-master activity - not only that, but it also offers you the chance to explore the beautiful Japanese countryside from a fresh and exciting perspective.
In the afternoon, you’ll return to your accommodation by private bus. Dinner will be served early but your day is far from over - meet your group in the lobby for a great, interactive Wadaiko Japanese Drum workshop and finish your day with a bang!
Day five begins with a short drive to Choko-ji Temple, where you’ll be practicing zen meditation and calligraphy under the expert guidance of a resident priest. Used by Buddhists as methods for training and stilling the mind, this morning’s activities should help you to find some rest after such a busy and active few days.
Travelling once again by private bus, your next destination will be Uzui, where lunch will be prepared and served by a friendly local woman at a nearby guesthouse. Following lunch, the guesthouse owner’s son will then share with you some stories and information about the local area, as well as explaining solutions that have been used to combat the social issues that the community has faced in recent years.
In the afternoon, you’ll travel on to Hirasa Ueda, Onan, for a walking tour of the local area with a knowledgeable guide who will explain the ins and outs of rice planting as you pass a landscape patched with rice fields.
After checking in to your accommodation in the evening and enjoying a delicious dinner, there will be one more activity left to enjoy - jump back on the private bus and head to a nearby hall for the chance to watch a Kagura performance rehearsal, and even interact with the performers afterwards!
Day five ended quite late, so no doubt you’ll be in need of a bit more rest the following morning. Day six starts with another relaxed morning, with plenty of time to sleep in, savour your breakfast and explore the accommodation’s facilities before meeting the group around 11:30 and boarding the private bus on your way to lunch.
After lunch at a local restaurant, the group will continue on to Onan Kids’ Club, where you’ll be able to share your culture and learn more about Japan through games and fun interaction with local children.
Don’t worry if you’re feeling a bit worn out after your time at the Kids’ Club - your next stop will be the Tamazakura Sake Brewery in Mizuho, where a short tour and a chance to sample the wares will surely boost your energy levels once more. Even better, this Brewery is usually not open to tourists, which means that you’ll be enjoying a rare experience few have had!
Afterwards, it will be time to head to the night’s accommodation, where a delicious and well-earned dinner will be served.
The final day of the tour will begin with one last breakfast, followed by a trip to the Miyoshi Mononoke Museum by private bus for a chance to learn more about the mythology and folklore of Shimane.
Lunch will be served at a local restaurant, and then you’ll have around one hour of free time to explore Miyoshi and pick up any final souvenirs that you may desire.
After returning to Hiroshima via train, the tour will come to an end at Hiroshima Station around 4pm.
Heartland Japan gave us a truly unique opportunity to experience authentic Japanese culture in a setting most foreigners rarely get to see. An unforgettable experience.
Leave the chaos of Tokyo behind and see the slower pace of rural Japan on this tour in Shimane Prefecture. The natural beauty, the cultural heartland of a diverse country and the warm reception of locals will show you that there is more to Japan than the tourist hotspots.
Heartland Japan goes beyond sightseeing to offer an unforgettable, interactive experience with a pulse.
The Heartland Japan Tour lifts the curtain on the real Japan: local people in their communities living with respect for their environment and their culture as they have done for hundreds of years
I felt on each day that I was traveling as a local, seeing and experiencing special things that other tourists traveling in Japan’s big cities or in large groups might never be so lucky to experience.
The Izumo, Iwami Ginzan & Gonokawa River Trail packs in fascinating historic sites, fun cultural experiences and insightful interactions with local people. Even after 10 years in Japan, my time on the tour was truly memorable, thanks to its unique elements in an off-the-beaten-track destination.
Definitely a different experience and a different face of Japan that is worth seeing.
Li Yan– :
When you think of a cultural immersion trip in Japan, think Shimane!
An immersive and fascinating glimpse into Japanese culture that can only be had by leaving the major cities behind.
This was my first trip in Japan. Having experienced the strong culture, traditions, history and natural beauty of the rural Shimane Prefecture with Heartland Japan before heading to Tokyo and Kyoto, I left Japan feeling that I’d had a rare opportunity to see and understand real Japan. On my next trip I will incorporate another rural area of this fascinating country and see it with Heartland Japan.
Unique immersive experiences – be served tea and pastries by a 3rd generation master baker in his kitchen; follow in the footsteps of samurai hiking ancient trails through the mountains and forests; walk with a rice farmer through his fields and learn the history of the region; taste sake with the brewer and his family as you are shown how the best sake is made; join rehearsals with a local drum troupe or Kagura performers.
Just some of the unique and special experiences on offer – all with Heartland Japan.
Heartland Japan offers an authentic opportunity to experience the beauty of nature, the richness of culture, and the warmth of the Japanese people.
zoritoler imol– :
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